Competitive Intelligence

Competitive Intelligence

Competitive intelligence is marketing information that helps marketers and other members of an organization better understand their competitors and competitive market dynamics. Common types of competitive intelligence include the following:

  • Product information: Who is making products that compete with your offerings? What features or capabilities make these products attractive to prospective customers? How do these features compare to yours? How are products packaged and offered to customers?
  • Market share and penetration: Which companies in your competitive market sell the most products to your target market, and how much do they sell? Which organizations are considered the market leaders? How is market share evolving over time?
  • Pricing strategy: What do competitors charge for their products? What pricing structure and strategies do they use? What special pricing or discounting do they offer? How does this affect your pricing and position relative to competitors?
  • Competitive positioning and messaging: What are competitors saying about themselves? What are they saying to current and prospective clients or other stakeholders about your organization or products? How effective are their messages at generating interest in competitor products or diminishing interest in yours? What keywords are competitors dominating in search engines?
  • Win/loss analysis: What proportion of new sales are you winning or losing? Why are people selecting your product over competitors’? Why are they selecting a competitor’s offering instead of yours?

Companies tend to guard sensitive information closely, such as detailed information about product cost, pricing structure, and market share. In fact, there are market analysts who specialize in competitive intelligence because it can be so difficult to obtain. However, anyone in a marketing role should maintain a general level of awareness about competitors and what’s happening in their market, and there are fairly easy ways to do this. Marketers can learn a lot directly from competitors, such as reading their Web sites, following them on social media, and monitoring press releases and other published content to understand what they are communicating to the market and to prospective customers. Information can also come from industry-focused newsletters, blogs, social media conversations, reports, conferences, and other forums that discuss new developments and key players in a product category or market.

When marketing activities are associated with a higher-priced sale and a complex decision process, sales and marketing organizations may conduct some type of win/loss analysis after a purchasing decision is made. A win/loss analysis captures information from individuals involved in a sale to understand the key factors influencing the final purchasing decision. It can help marketers better understand how to improve the marketing mix—product, price, promotion, placement—in order to improve sales performance in comparison with competitors.

All of these activities can provide useful insights about how customers view the choices available to them, as well as how competitors view and compete in the market. As with internal data, a better understanding of these factors helps marketers improve the marketing mix to compete more effectively and become a preferred choice for customers.